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A Piano's Purpose

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A Piano's Purpose

A world without music would be duller than a film about paint drying, which is actually a real thing. Although students are currently learning from home, we wanted to recognize a local program that has made strides in developing life and social skills through the power of music.

For the past 20 years, The Gilmore has offered its Piano Labs to students and young adults in the Kalamazoo community.

“The program originally started in the Kalamazoo Public Schools (KPS), as previous education directors were looking for ways to incorporate music into the school systems,” explained Adam Schumaker, The Gilmore’s Director of Education.

Currently, there are six Piano Labs throughout Kalamazoo and Battle Creek. Two are located in KPS elementary schools, at Spring Valley Center for Exploration and at Woods Lake Elementary, and a third is located at Ann J. Kellogg Elementary School in Battle Creek. Additionally, there are labs offered through the Kalamazoo Maple Street YMCA, the Kalamazoo County Juvenile Home, and the Kalamazoo RESA Young Adult Program.

“The education programs at The Gilmore are focused on music for all ages, but the Piano Labs are unique,” Schumaker shared. “I was looking to find out about more robust curriculums and what I realized is that there are very few schools across the nation that have piano labs, especially in elementary schools.”

At the elementary level, the Piano Labs serve more than 500 students twice per week with sessions typically lasting about 30 minutes. The focus of these labs can include piano lessons, musical therapy, and songwriting exercises, which all build a life-long appreciation of music among other benefits.

“Musical engagement can lead to crucial brain development, assist with the coordination of motorized skills, and increase auditory recognition,” Schumaker said of the Piano Labs’ benefits. “Being able to reach these students at such a young age is special. Even if the participants do not continue playing piano, this program shaped their lives and provided a rich musical experience.”

By having such a lasting effect on students in and out of the classroom, the Piano Labs demonstrate the importance of a well-rounded curriculum.

“The arts can sometimes get pushed aside in public school systems, but what we are finding in those schools that have the Piano Labs is that music and arts have a place in educational culture,” he said. “We are part of a larger web of sharing music with communities across Kalamazoo.”

We could not agree more. Kalamazoo is lucky to have professionals that are dedicated to sharing the joys of music. Questions regarding the Piano Labs can be directed to Adam Schumaker or Education and Community Engagement Manager Leslie Baron.

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